Detection and response

If a bioterrorist attack using Yersinia pestis were to occur, infected people would likely show signs of illness within 1-3 days. Early in the outbreak, when the first wave of people get sick, healthcare providers might not recognize signs of plague in their patients, especially in areas of the country where plague does not usually occur. Public health authorities would likely recognize a bioterrorist attack as more people became sick and when laboratory test results became available.

How would CDC respond to a plague emergency?

Several cases of pneumonic plague in one area would be a public health emergency, prompting CDC to respond immediately. Additionally, any case of plague outside areas where plague naturally occurs and in people without history of travel would cause alarm. In a plague emergency, CDC and other federal agencies would work closely with state and local partners to coordinate a response.

CDC and other federal agencies would respond by:

  • Coordinating activities through the Emergency Operations Center.
  • Communicating information about plague to the public.
  • Providing guidance to healthcare providers, hospitals, health departments, and others on how to respond.
  • Working with the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) to test samples from sick people.
  • Sending out field staff to interview people who are sick with plague and those who were in close contact with them.
  • Shipping out antibiotic treatments and other medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpileexternal icon (SNS) to states and other locations where needed.